The Beautiful Blue Danube

Sometimes I wonder about how my mind works. My neighbour’s morning coughing spell today sounded to me like The Blue Danube.

Cough, cough, cough, cough cough

Cough cough, cough cough

Cough Cough cough cough cough

Cough cough cough cough

Cough cough cough cough COUGH

Cough cough COUGH

Cough cough cough

Cough cough

cough cough

AHEM

Johann Strauss II

Gave me an earworm.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

Time for a bit more feckin’ culture, mate.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came
Thomas Moran
1859


MY first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that purs’d and scor’d
Its edge, at one more victim gain’d thereby.

What else should he be set for, with his staff?
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travellers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guess’d what skull-like laugh
Would break, what crutch ’gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,

If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly
I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,
So much as gladness that some end might be.

For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
What with my search drawn out thro’ years, my hope
Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring,—
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
My heart made, finding failure in its scope.

As when a sick man very near to death
Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
Freelier outside, (“since all is o’er,” he saith,
“And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;”)

While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves,
And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.

Thus, I had so long suffer’d, in this quest,
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So many times among “The Band”—to wit,
The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search address’d
Their steps—that just to fail as they, seem’d best.
And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?

So, quiet as despair, I turn’d from him,
That hateful cripple, out of his highway
Into the path the pointed. All the day
Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim
Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

For mark! no sooner was I fairly found
Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,
Than, pausing to throw backward a last view
O’er the safe road, ’t was gone; gray plain all round:
Nothing but plain to the horizon’s bound.
I might go on; nought else remain’d to do.

So, on I went. I think I never saw
Such starv’d ignoble nature; nothing throve:
For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
You ’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”

If there push’d any ragged thistle=stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopp’d; the bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock’s harsh swarth leaves, bruis’d as to baulk
All hope of greenness? ’T is a brute must walk
Pashing their life out, with a brute’s intents.

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
In leprosy; thin dry blades prick’d the mud
Which underneath look’d kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud!

Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
With that red, gaunt and collop’d neck a-strain,
And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
I never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

I shut my eyes and turn’d them on my heart.
As a man calls for wine before he fights,
I ask’d one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier’s art:
One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert’s reddening face
Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he us’d. Alas, one night’s disgrace!
Out went my heart’s new fire and left it cold.

Giles then, the soul of honor—there he stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.
Good—but the scene shifts—faugh! what hangman hands
Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands
Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!

Better this present than a past like that;
Back therefore to my darkening path again!
No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet of a bat?
I asked: when something on the dismal flat
Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

A sudden little river cross’d my path
As unexpected as a serpent comes.
No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
This, as it froth’d by, might have been a bath
For the fiend’s glowing hoof—to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

So petty yet so spiteful All along,
Low scrubby alders kneel’d down over it;
Drench’d willows flung them headlong in a fit
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:
The river which had done them all the wrong,
Whate’er that was, roll’d by, deterr’d no whit.

Which, while I forded,—good saints, how I fear’d
To set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek,
Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!
—It may have been a water-rat I spear’d,
But, ugh! it sounded like a baby’s shriek.

Glad was I when I reach’d the other bank.
Now for a better country. Vain presage!
Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage
Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
Soil to a plash? Toads in a poison’d tank,
Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage—

The fight must so have seem’d in that fell cirque.
What penn’d them there, with all the plain to choose?
No foot-print leading to that horrid mews,
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk
Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

And more than that—a furlong on—why, there!
What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,
Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel
Men’s bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet’s tool, on earth left unaware,
Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

Then came a bit of stubb’d ground, once a wood,
Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes!) within a rood—
Bog, clay, and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.

Now blotches rankling, color’d gay and grim,
Now patches where some leanness of the soil’s
Broke into moss or substances like thus;
Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim
Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

And just as far as ever from the end,
Nought in the distance but the evening, nought
To point my footstep further! At the thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon’s bosom-friend,
Sail’d past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penn’d
That brush’d my cap—perchance the guide I sought.

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
All round to mountains—with such name to grace
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surpris’d me,—solve it, you!
How to get from them was no clearer case.

Yet half I seem’d to recognize some trick
Of mischief happen’d to me, God knows when—
In a bad perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click
As when a trap shuts—you ’re inside the den.

Burningly it came on me all at once,
This was the place! those two hills on the right,
Couch’d like two bulls lock’d horn in horn in fight,
While, to the left, a tall scalp’d mountain … Dunce,
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
After a life spent training for the sight!

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool’s heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counter-part
In the whole world. The tempest’s mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see? because of night perhaps?—Why, day
Came back again for that! before it left,
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—
“Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!”

Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it toll’d
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knell’d the woe of years.

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

Robert Browning (1812–89)

Good Customer Relations

This exchange shows how good customer relations works. The company was prepared to replace an expensive unit because of the failure of a small component. My problem with this was that the replacement part was likely to fail in the exact same manner if I continued to use the bike in the same way. I thought I had a better solution. It turned out well, and it also turns out, I suppose, that I am a good customer to have relations with.

Anyway. Apart from replacing the saddle with a more comfortable one to suit my fat arse, and this little issue below, the bike has been excellent, and the service from the company exemplary.

I love my bike, so Leitner deserve a plug on my blog. I hope both my readers buy one.

Read the emails from the bottom up.

Hi Alan,

Thanks for your message.

I’m not sure if or when we will make Leitner stubby holders, but if we do, there will be one with your name on it!

Thanks again and we hope that this resolution holds up and please let us know if you have any issues.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Leitner team!

Feel free to message us or call us on 1300 856 725 if you have any further questions.
Regards,
Alex
Leitner eBikes


On Sat, Dec 14, 2019 at 8:50 AM Alan Freshwater <> wrote:

Once I pulled the old rubber out, I could see it was more to protect me from being pinched by the spring than to protect the spring itself. Incidentally, the rubber was very brittle. It tore very easily and clearly does not like the Queensland sunshine. My fix seems to work fine. I cut down a neoprene wetsuit material stubbie holder and glued and taped it into a cylinder just tight enough to cover the piston. I clamped it one end only with a strong cable tie then ran a bit more Gorilla Tape around it. I’ve been out for a few rides, and hit some speed bumps at a good lick. It is all holding together. I’m satisfied.

So, if you ever produce a Leitner stubby holder, you owe me one!

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Alan

On Fri, 13 Dec 2019 at 13:47, Leitner Electric Bikes <sales@leitner.com.au> wrote:

Dear Alan,

Thanks for your message.

We look forward to your modification. Hopefully, it will work and will be great. Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a lovely weekend ahead Alan!

Feel free to message us or call us on 1300 856 725 if you have any further questions.
Regards,
Kitty
Leitner eBikes


On Fri, Dec 13, 2019 at 2:36 PM Alan Freshwater

> wrote:

Cheers Kitty. I will try out my clever idea and let you know how it went. I’ll even send a photo if it turns out as brilliantly as I hope.


Have a nice one.

On Fri, 13 Dec 2019 at 08:13, Leitner Electric Bikes <sales@leitner.com.au> wrote:

Dear Alan,

Thanks for your message.


From our knowledge, the rubber is used to protect the inner springs and there is not structural function of the rubber cover. If you have an idea of replacing this cover with another more durable material and is comfortable doing so, let us know how you go. If you have any questions or trouble, feel free to let us know. We are happy to assist until this is resolved.


Thank you for your patience and effort in working through this with us. We look forward to hearing from you.


Feel free to message us or call us on 1300 856 725 if you have any further questions.
Regards,
Kitty
Leitner eBikes


On Thu, Dec 12, 2019 at 4:43 PM Alan Freshwater <> wrote:

Thanks again Alex. I appreciate your consideration. Before we go to the inconvenience and cost of replacement of the whole fitting I’d like to ask again how essential is this rubber boot to the continued operation of the bike? I’ve already thought of a repair I could easily undertake using neoprene material as used in wet suits. If the design is just to keep out dust and water with a flexible cover, I’m betting I can make a repair as good as the original with a more durable material. Which I happen to have on hand. My only concern is whether this part as fitted has some other important purpose that may affect the safety or functionality of the bike. If it is just a flexible dust cover I can sort it easily.


CheeRs


Alan

On Thu, 12 Dec 2019 at 2:24 pm, Leitner Electric Bikes <sales@leitner.com.au> wrote:

Hi Alan,


Thanks for your reply and for the additional information. We are glad to hear that you are getting plenty of use out the bike!


This is very strange and is definitely the first we have heard of this happening. We are happy to cover this under warranty, but please note this would be a once-off coverage as it appears to likely be a result of prolonged exposure to the sun/heat and not necessarily manufacturing fault. While we understand that you have always placed it under the shade where possible, we would recommend that you continue to do this. Also, another option could be a bike cover or a tarp to place over the bike if it will be exposed to high levels of heat.


So that we can raise a warranty claim, could you please provide us with some photos showing the serial number of the bike (located above the front forks engraved around the frame). You may need to take two photos to cover the whole number.


In addition, could you please provide your preferred shipping address to have the replacement sent out to.


Thanks again and we look forward to hearing from you.


Feel free to message us or call us on 1300 856 725 if you have any further questions.
Regards,
Alex
Leitner eBikes


On Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 6:46 PM Alan Freshwater <> wrote:

Hi Alex


I’ve been riding my bike to the pool every day for 5 or 6 days a week and locking it on the bike rack with the side that has perished towards the sun. That’s the only time it is exposed for any length of time except when I’m riding. When I go shopping I find shade. I usually swim for 90 minutes at a time. That and the cycling has helped me lose a heap of weight.
But I digress. I noticed the deterioration last week but I forgot to follow up with you until this morning, I assume that daily exposure is the cause.
Cheers
Alan

On Wed, 11 Dec 2019 at 12:19, Leitner Electric Bikes <sales@leitner.com.au> wrote:

Hi Alan,


Thanks for your message.


Usually with this part, we would just replace the entire rear suspension as we do not typically stock the individual rubber part.


So we can have a bit of a further look into this, do you mind telling us how this happened?


Did it occur while riding? or did you just notice that it had started to peel after a while?


Thanks again and we look forward to hearing from you.


Feel free to message us or call us on 1300 856 725 if you have any further questions.
Regards,
Alex
Leitner eBikes

https://www.leitner.com.au/

https://www.productreview.com.au/b/leitner

https://www.facebook.com/LeitnerDirect



On Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 11:54 AM Alan Freshwater <> wrote:

As you can see from the attached photo the rubber cover on the suspension shock absorber is deteriorating badly. How important is it for protecting the bike and can I replace it myself? Are you able to supply a new one?
Best regards


Alan



Stuff

This morning I awoke at three, with the slightest of red wine hangovers. Damn. That wine was almost $7.50 a bottle. I thought it was worth investing that much to get the good stuff. The remaining half bottle can go into cooking. I drank a half litre of mineral water to rehydrate.

The night was warm. I was hot and sticky. Since I had to wander down to the ablution block anyway, I took a towel with me and enjoyed a cold shower. I didn’t want to wear my sweaty nightclothes after getting clean, so I walked back to the camp with my towel wrapped around my waist. This gave me some pride, because not too long ago, that towel would not reach around my waist, let alone overlap enough to be worn.

Back in the cabin, I sorted through the pile of clean laundry, which I still had not folded and put away, for something to wear. I can see my home, and my life, is a shambles. I decided today would be a day for the Doing of Things and the beginning of a New Attitude.

Today, Things must be Done. The Doing of Things must be undertaken with alacrity and determination. It is time to tidy up the physical aspects of my life and put new rules into effect.

  • If it does not have a suitable permanent place, it must go.
  • It must be stored away when not being used
  • If it does not serve a useful or essential function, or bring me joy, it must go.
  • If it makes me sad, it must go.
  • If it is not being used, and is not a necessary contingency item such as a tool or tow rope, it must go.
  • if it might come in handy some day, but I can’t specify under which reasonably likely circumstances, it must go
  • Before anything new comes in, something must go
  • I live alone. If it is a duplicate, and surplus to requirements, it must go. Exception: two spare sets of cutlery, crockery, glasses. In case any of my few remaining friends turn up.

Rubbish shall go in the bin. Items that may be of use to someone shall go to either the Dogs charity shop, or the Hospice charity shop. I reject the Sallies because of their medieval attitude towards gays, and the Vinnies because they are pawns of the greatest criminal organisation in the world, that has the resources and power to end world hunger, poverty and overpopulation in a heartbeat. But won’t.

Having made that decision, I went back to bed and slept until ten. After coffee and brunch, I shall get started.

De Morte

Now that I’ve had a nap, and a glass of wine with my dinner, my reflections on today have given me some insights. It was indeed embarrassing; both for the GP with an unnecessarily concerned patient, and for the patient.

I too quickly leapt to a conclusion. When I received the previous call back, I made the appointment by phone, and asked for a hint of what the doctor wanted to discuss. Of course the receptionist was not falling for that one. This time, I didn’t ring, but just booked via the booking app. If I had rung, no doubt some confusion and distress might have been avoided. Or perhaps not.

No harm, no foul. A lesson learned.

My own (over)reaction ranged from considering the simple possibility that I was just going to lose a bit more of my arm, to the increasingly more sinister implications of chemo, radiation, drastic surgery and a short and painful prognosis. I missed the one I should have considered first; it’s probably nothing serious.

I also thought about where I was right now. From a medical standpoint, possibly the best possible place in the world. I have free medical treatment in a country well equipped and experienced with skin cancer.

I am between 2,500 and 3,600 km away from my closest friends and relatives in any direction. I’m paying the price of having been too far for too long from my immediate and extended family. I explored some time ago the possibility of returning to NZ. My visit only confirmed you can’t go back. Even returning would have to be a going forward. I couldn’t see the way.

My local support group consists of two very kind new acquaintances. I have one person with whom I have regular long distance telephone conversations, a friend who has experience with basal cell carcinoma. It used to be we only had dogs, emus and cooking as common interests. I’d have preferred to stick to that.

Today was, therefore, a reminder of what it is to be alone and ageing. As if I needed one.

In vino veritas

Morning

At four in the morning the sky is already lightening here in southeast Queensland. Daylight savings is not observed here. Today, sunrise was at four forty five. By five, the flashing bars on the solar controller announce that the panels are already receiving enough light to charge the battery.

The dawn chorus of about seven species of bird is already subsiding as the dawn chorus of coughing old men begins, followed very soon by the shuffling of slippers, the slapping of flip-flops and the tapping of walking sticks as those of the elderly residents in the camp who do not have facilities in our caravans begin our morning peregrinations to the ablution block. The dawn chorus of morning greetings begins.

The morning coffee has already kicked in, but the analgesics have not yet reached full effect. This first walk of the morning is the one I dislike most. I step carefully over the speed bump across the road outside the cabin where Gaz lives. I almost tripped on it once, because I don’t always lift my feet high enough. That is becoming less of a problem since I started pedalling.

On his veranda rail is a sign that says “Office of Der Kommandant, Stalag 13”. On the wall of his cabin is a newly arrived sign reading “ No Money, No Fags, No Grog. Go Home”. On the back of the mobility scooter parked in front is the sign “FARTY”. Gaz is probably the most cheerful resident in the park, and possibly the one with the least reason to be cheerful. I remind myself of this every time I pass his home, and smile.

We were discussing knees a while back. They are a popular subject here, like the weather, the high temperatures, and the irascible park manager.

“I got new knees” Gaz told me. “Didn’t do me any good at all”. Then cheerfully adds “The vets association are giving me a new scooter next year. I’ll give you this one”.

In the ablution block the cistern over the men’s urinal is filling and flushing every forty five seconds. Wasting water. I can see it has a new stainless steel braided hose fitted. Someone had made a repair recently. It used to flush manually by pulling a string to depress the lever. Now an automatic flusher must have been fitted, probably because most of the old codgers who use the urinal don’t bother to flush.

The handle of the stop cock had been removed, so I could not adjust it. I made a mental note to call the office later, and tell them about it.

And that is my entire plan for the day. I still can’t swim for a few more days. Even now at five o’clock the temperature is already twenty five degrees. I doubt I’ll be riding in the sun today. I shall have to ride in the evening, if it cools down. Yesterday it didn’t. I sat in front of a fan all day and binge watched season eight of Game of Thrones.

Today will be a book day. I think it’s time to revisit Earthsea. No. It’s Saturday. Time to change the sheets and do the laundry. Then I’ll be a free man for the remainder of the day.

At least I can start showering again.